Making Winter Our Own, Despite Being Allergic to the Cold

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photo of tiffany connollyAs she waddled out of Donner Lake, where she had been playing in water up to her thighs, my eyes tracked down from her pudgy cheeks to her little legs. What I saw shocked me. I felt a tight clenching of my chest and panic starting to manifest in my expression, all while trying to soften my face to keep from upsetting my 3-year-old daughter. Her legs were covered in large, angry welts, the skin raised and swollen in a striking contrast of beet red and glaring white, making it look as if her thighs had been repeatedly struck by a whip.

She wasn’t crying or even aware of her condition. Believing she was experiencing an allergic reaction to something in the water, we rushed to Rite Aid for Benadryl and her skin returned to normal.

That incident and other similar events — hives on her hands after eating a cold, juicy peach; cheeks covered in hives after a walk on a cold winter afternoon — prompted a trip to the allergist. An ice cube test (a seemingly very unscientific procedure where the doctor placed an ice cube directly on my daughter’s bare arm) revealed that she has cold urticaria. She is literally allergic to cold, and when exposed to cold temperatures her skin will break out in hives or welts.

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My daughter is now 8 years old and her allergy has no effect on her, other than the minor annoyance of hives when she gets too cold. We bundle her up as much as she lets us, and she continues to enjoy skiing, sledding, making snow angels, and throwing snowballs for our dog, Olaf.

I am also allergic to cold, although my daughter didn’t inherit her condition from me. My “allergy” is figurative — I despise being cold. I don’t understand the cold-plunge therapy obsession, and I will never, ever — not ever— jump into Lake Tahoe in the winter.

Even so, with our physical and psychological aversions to cold, we thrive in and embrace our mountain lifestyle. I’ll take the cold, and so will my daughter, if it means we have the privilege to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Sierra, bear witness to seasonal changes, participate in Truckee’s tight-knit community, enjoy the melodies of our songbirds, and hit pause on a chaotic world when we find ourselves in the middle of a silent, snow-blanketed forest.

My daughter loves winter more than summer; she counts the days until the first snowflake lands on her dark eyelashes. For me, winter is difficult, and I’ve had to shift my perspective in order to love it, giving myself permission to get lost in a brilliant novel and letting go of the guilt of not logging as many resort days as my friends. I’ve learned to make winter my own.

If you already have 25 days of skiing under your belt, good on you! Make sure to check what your responsibilities are in terms of safety when you hit the resorts in You Asked, They Answered. And if you’re like me, having to lug snow gear into your house without the luxury of a mudroom, you may find some inspiration for keeping your floors dry in Creative Solutions for a Makeshift Mudroom.

When I moved to Truckee 15 years ago, winter meant tailgating in parking lots, group ski days with my friends from the restaurant where I tended bar, house parties, and happy hours. Today, my winters are more gentle, more slow, and much more quiet. And I’m okay with that. 

Author

  • Tiffany Connolly

    Tiffany Connolly joined Moonshine Ink in 2023, six years after leaving her teaching career to focus on writing. She owns a small marketing business in Truckee and is thrilled to be writing stories that make an impact. Tiffany holds a bachelor's in art history from UCLA and master's in education from Pepperdine University. She loves fast and flowy mountain bike trails and movie nights with her family.

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